Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tagore remembered in China

A year long celebrations have commenced to mark the 150th of India's national poet Rabindranath Tagore in May 2011. Tagore was the first Asian to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1913. In the 1920s, Tagore had visited China thrice, and made many friends. Tagore's poems were first translated in Chinese in 1915. Tagore too had referred to China and its civilisation in many of his writings. But his first visit in 1924 generate quite a bit of controversy, coming as it did in the aftermath of the May Fourth Movement earlier. Tagore was criticised by both the Marxists and the Kuomintangs.
"I say that a poet’s mission is to attract the voice which is yet inaudible in the air; to inspire faith in the dream which is unfulfilled; to bring the earliest tidings of the unborn flower to a sceptic world."
- Tagore: "First Talk at Shanghai", Talks in China (1924)
In 2006, the People's Daily, the official Chinese newspaper, listed Tagore among 50 international personalities who influenced modern Chinese thinking.

Xu Zhimo, the Cambridge educated Chinese poet, and his wife, Lu, were friend and admirer of Tagore. The couple had hosted Tagore in their house in the Simingcun in the 1920s. At the Shanghai World Expo this year (2010), a documentary on Tagore is being screened. And this month (May 2010), the Indian President Pratibha Patil will inaugurate a bust of Tagore in the former French Concession area of Shanghai.

Here are two related news items on Tagore in China today.
"Tagore's poems remembered by Chinese", by Anurag Priyadarshi in the Shanghai Daily, on 30 April 2010.
"Tagore in China", by Bivash Mukherjee, in the Hindustan Times, on 8 May 2010.

And here is an interesting and scholarly discussion on Tagore's visits to China.
"The Controversial Guest: Tagore in China", by Sisir Kumar Das, in

Here is a summary discussion on the controversy surrounding Tagore's first trip to China in 1924. "Rabindranath Tagore's Visit to China", by Lata Iyer, on 15 June 2009.

Finally, here are two excerpts from two talks given by Tagore. One, he delivered in China in 1924. And the second he gave on the occasion of the inauguration of the Cheena Bhavan (China House) at the Viswa Bharati university in Shantiniketan in 1937. These were published in the book, The Himalayan Gap.

1 comment:

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